Following the CDC's recent No Sail Order extension , cruise lines say they'll not only create a bubble, but they'll test everyone who steps onboard. The tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, and industry leaders say people are ready to take their coronavirus precautions and set sail.
“We’ve been out of California, we’ve done all the Mexican, Caribbean, Bahama, Alaska, Hawaii, we’re planning on Panama Canal next year. After that we want to go to Europe and do a riverboat cruise,” said Betsy Atwood, a passenger on 37 past cruises.
When she's not "cruising,” Atwood calls Vassar, Michigan, home. She was onboard a ship last spring when cruise lines were ordered back home. Ever since then, she's been ready to get back out on the high seas.
“They need to sail, they need to get them going. You’re safer on the ship then you are to the grocery store. They’re so clean to begin with and I know now they’re cleaner than they were before,” Atwood said.
Cleaning is just one part of the broad plan to get passengers back said Joe Leon, vice president of field sales for Silversea in the Americas. Silversea in the Americas is the luxury arm of Royal Caribbean and its ships only carry 600 people on board, which is small by industry standards. Other vessels have capacities of five to six thousand guests.
Leon said since the shutdown, they've been simulating what life would be like on the ship, including dining and egress.
He said the team of experts behind "Healthy Sail Panel" detailed all of that in a 65-page report for the cruise industry.
The "74-point memo on exactly what their recommendations are, assessment of our current protocols and how the science applies and why it should apply and why these are the recommended action and result is a safe environment, our idea is to create a bubble for customers,” Leon said.
Testing 100% of passengers, face coverings, enhanced sanitation methods will be everywhere. Leon says the report details multiple focal points.
“First is embarkation and screening,” Leon said. “That’s testing and how strict we are with crew and passengers and contractors. Then there's public safety on board and public access where you will have to wear masks and what’s the proper social distancing measures.”
They're taking shore excursions into account too, and medical facilities. While things will be different, he says, it's everyone's responsibility to do their part so that everyone can safely sail when it's time.
For Atwood, who has a new excursion planned for March, what they're doing is more than enough. She's part of a group who is anxiously awaiting their annual cruise, and says, “We’ll all be heartbroken; they need to open them back up," Awtood said.
The CDC's No Sail Order expires October 31, but some cruise lines are postponing voyages through the end of 2020.